Cheap 5.1 vs. better stereo speakers for both HT/music?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Mike Ulveling, Mar 4, 2003.

  1. Mike Ulveling

    Mike Ulveling Auditioning

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    Hi guys!
    After months of research on the video side, I've finally reached my video nirvana: a panasonic ae300 fed by an rp91 dvd player projecting onto a 90" widescreen highpower. Unfortunately, I only have headphones right now - they're really good, Sennheiser HD580's fed by a headphone amp, but sometimes I wish for real speakers to go with the big picture. Haven't finalized my budget yet, but it will be around $700-$900, and that would have to include the receiver. I'm interested in JBL speakers from what I've heard of their price/performance ratio (they also sound way better than anything else at Best Buy), and it seems from my meager budget that I'm left with 2 options:

    1) Get a cheap 5.1 setup: JBL NSP1 package + about $300 for a receiver + about $200 for the subwoofer, total ~$750

    2) Get decent mains (S38s? N38s? S310's?) + $300 receiver + sub

    Background:
    - I live in an apartment, my HT has taken over a 10'x21' section of my living area (total area is 16'x21'). My main seating is about 15' back from the screen, so that leaves a lot of emoty space up front and not a whole lot of space in the back for surround speakers.
    - This will be used more for dvd's than music, BUT at least 50% of my dvd's are 2-channel audio anime. Also, if I really like how music sounds, I will probably end up listening to at least 35% music.
    - Sound quality is much more important to me than quantity, especially since I live in an apartment.

    So, what path would you guys recommend? Do you think I'd be happier with better mains and get the surrounds later? Or if surround is THAT much better should I go that way? I really enjoy my headphones for their accuracy, I just want the speaker "feel", especially real bass. If I go with only 2 mains I'm assuming I can use a sub with movies no problem (though this won't be its own discrete channel)? Any sub recommended in the $200 range? Any speaker or receiver recommendations in general? Thanks in advance for directing this newbie towards sonic nivana [​IMG]

    Mike U.
     
  2. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Whew.

    I think you're gonna be really disappointed with any $300 receiver and "home theater in a box" speakers you can find, especially if your listening habits include "35% music".

    And since you'll be listening to alot of two channel (music and your anime discs), perhaps it would be a good idea to concentrate on your two channel setup first. Center, rear and sub can come later when you can afford speakers worthy of your screen. I just can't help but think you're gonna be real disappointed with a 90" screen married to a 2" sound.
     
  3. Alan M

    Alan M Second Unit

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    just a thought.Many of us have bought the fluance sx-htb system.I listen to rock and classical,my wife listens to jazz.Even she was amazed at how good these speakers sound.1 of the other ht members said,if you close your eyes,these sound like $1000 speakers.Clear sound without being too bright,good midrange,and bass thats perfect for music.Btw they sale for $269.
    www.fluance.com
    I'm about 80% movies and 20%music.This is just my opinion,but others seem to agree.
     
  4. JoeyTadeja

    JoeyTadeja Agent

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    You might want to consider buying from reputable direct online merchants such as Norh, Aperion Audio, AV123, AudioInsider, Home Theater Direct, Outlaw Audio, Bettercables, SVS, Axiom Audio, or Ascend Acoustics, to name a few. You get a lot of value for your money with them and they have excellent customer service. I don't think you can go wrong with them even just based on comments made by their customers in a number of message boards. However, the $900 budget would not suffice for a really good home theater/music listening experience, especially with that big screen you have. You may want to reconsider doubling that amount ($1400-$1800), if not, you can always start on a good pair of mains and center and a receiver with enough wattage to power them, then later purchase the surrounds (and decent cables). Check this link:

    http://www.cheaphometheater.com/

    If you are tight in space which i doubt considering that humongous screen you have, those HTiB setups are really pathetic but there are 2 or 3 decent ones out there.

    B&W:
    http://www.bwspeakers.com/index.cfm?...794CAF70847DF2
    http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/spe...es/105538.html

    KEF:
    http://209.167.103.167/kef2005.htm
    http://www.homecinemachoice.com/testbench/index.html

    Mirage:
    http://www.hometheatersound.com/equi...e_omnisat6.htm

    Better yet, go to a bookstore and read the latest What Hi-Fi? Magazine, which i think is the best audio magazine in the world for consumers and pros. They currently have a review of HTiBs.

    With a $900 budget you could probably get away with the micro system from Anthony Gallo:

    http://www.roundsound.com/systems/ht.htm
    http://www.soundstage.com/revequip/g...cro_system.htm

    an extra $500 will get you a receiver from Outlaw Audio:
    http://www.goodsound.com/equipment/o...0_receiver.htm
     
  5. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    And let me throw another plug in for the Outlaw 1050 receiver (you can get it for as low as $439, B-stock). It's considered passe on this forum due to lack of DTS-ES, pro-logic II, but I still haven't heard a receiver in this price-range that sounds as good for movies and music. I see that "Stereophile Guide to Home Theater" just rated it as "A" in their recommended components issue that came out this month -- in fact, it's the only budget-priced receiver that they've so honored. If you want real quality at a cheap price, I think it's still the only game in receiver town.
     
  6. sam_canavo

    sam_canavo Stunt Coordinator

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    If I could just throw in my .02.

    I also live in apt 13x24 is the theatre setup. Periodically
    I bring home the sony digital projector and screen from work.

    I run Panny sahe-9, rv31,psb alphas front and center and Paradigm3se minis in the rear with 10" acoustic research sub.

    I think it sounds pretty good for an apartment, 70-30 dvd-music.

    Now if you are a US resident you could look at the panny
    100 and these speakers I assume are cheaper in your country
    than mine.

    Probably run 700-800 and much better than htib.
    Just my thoughts.
     
  7. Mike Ulveling

    Mike Ulveling Auditioning

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    Wow, what a great forum! Thanks for all of the replies so far!

    I must admit that I'm becoming more partial to the idea of getting quality mains & receiver now, and then getting good surrounds later. I don't know much about audio, but I have heard that getting an "A" rating from stereophile is frickin' awesome, so that Outlaw 1050 looks really interesting (I don't care about DTS ES, and I'm willing to give up ProLogic II). I'd be willing to stretch my budget another $150-200 for a receiver of that quality, but then my problem would be getting main speakers of a high enough quality to complement it. I also really want a sub for movies. So what can I get in the way of a decent pair of speakers and a sub that will "get the job done" for the remaining $600 of my budget? I probably won't need a fantastic sub, what about the Sony WM40 for $140, leaving about $500 for the speakers?

    Joey, you mentioned getting mains and a center, but I was not aware that I could use a center channel without a full 5.1 setup? I thought it was either full 5.1 or just stereo. Is this one of the processing tasks that most receivers can do?

    I will also look at the reviews for the fluance 5.1 system, I can't believe that price!

    Thanks again, all!

    Mike U.
     
  8. Mike_Gr

    Mike_Gr Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree with others that if you save a little on a receiver you can spend more on some quality speakers. With that in mind.....you might want to look at the following two receivers that immediately come to mind:

    Kenwood VR6050 (100 x 5 w/ DD EX, DTS, & CS 2)
    Panasonic SA-HE200 (130 x 6 w/ DD EX, DTS-ES, Pro Logic II)

    Both of these units offer ample power combined with a decent amount of features for the money. You won't find on screen display etc. but that is to be expected in their price range. You can pick up the Kenwood for $250 and the Panasonic for around $350.

    When you look at receivers under the $300 dollar mark...the two I mentioned above are a cut above the rest IMO.
     
  9. Brian Ruth

    Brian Ruth Supporting Actor

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    How about the Harman Kardon AVR 125? I hear its pretty good, and its down to $300 now. I've heard good things about HK.

    As for the speakers:

    I'd say go with a couple of S38's to start out. You can always upgrade in the future, and I think in your case the 2 S38's will sound better than the all-in-one system. I'd just add components as time goes on (S-Center + S36's as rears). If most of your movies are 2-channel, you don't really need the rear speakers right away. I'd also recommend skipping the sub initially, since you're in an apartment. Wouldn't want those neighbors filing noise complaints! [​IMG]
     
  10. Greg Kolinski

    Greg Kolinski Second Unit

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    As Brian mentioned the HK 125,you might also ck on some of the HK stuff on their site that is refurbished.Some might have slight cosmetic flaws,but are all gone through componant wise and work.If you could live with a few little cosmetic flaws ,this could be a cheaper way to get a decent reciever
     
  11. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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  12. Jerome Grate

    Jerome Grate Cinematographer

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    Wow, that's a dilemna I don't think I've ever read anything like that before. Maybe the best idea is to save as much as you can before buying anything else. I can understand the need to have 5.1 for a 90 inch screen (whew), but a set up like that deserves at least mid-high end to high end equipment. Certainly a receiver like the HK 525 that has 7 channels of power and some speakers that closely match the power rating of the receiver. So I would try to get or save another 800 to 1,000 on top of the 700 or 800 you have now to spend.
     
  13. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    I've also got a lopsided system, but in the opposite direction! All my upgrades over the past two years have been on the audio side... I still watch a 27" Sony Trinitron!

    But I spend far more hours listening to music than watching movies. Still, a 90" screen... I'd love to have one of those! (At least, I think I would. Geez, that's big.)
     
  14. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    Long story short...I just went through the same dilemma and decided to go from a very good 5.1 HT system to a killer 2 channel system for the time being and work my way back up to 5.1 as funds allocate. I feel this will give me better enjoyment for music while not sacrificing that much for movies in the time being.

    I know people on this board will think watching movies in 2.1 is blasphemous, but I have come to the conclusion that 2.1 with killer speakers and an awesome sub is better than 5.1 with inferior gear. I can only imagine my good fortune when I will finally get back to 5.1 with gear of similar quality that I have gone with to get to 2.1.

     
  15. Mike Ulveling

    Mike Ulveling Auditioning

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    Welp, I'm now pretty much sold on getting a good 2-speaker setup (maybe with a sub), and then looking at 5.1 again sometime in the future. Anyone got opinions on the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170's? I've read they're very "musical" for the price - about $320 a pair direct. I'm used to the great accuracy of my HD580's, so these Ascends may be the ticket.

    Heh, it would have been nice to have left some money for audio, but my video setup makes me smile/drool every time I turn it on. [​IMG] It actually wasn't *too* expensive for what I got - just under $3K for projector, screen, and dvd player. The ae300 + highpower combination is golden. Looks exactly like a well setup plasma, just much larger!

    Mike U.
     
  16. JoeyTadeja

    JoeyTadeja Agent

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    You are right Mike. You can pretty much get away at this point with just 2 good full speakers for you mains without a center channel. There is such a processing where the center dialogue can be directed to the mains and for the mains to be able to give you an illusion that it's sending a surround sound field (Dolby Pro Logic???) but i'm not so sure because mine is always setup for DTS 5.1 or DD 5.1 when I watch DVD movies which is about 90% of the time. As for the sub, some full speakers have enough bass that you can forgo it for the meantime but if you must want a sub right now, since you watch movies more, then bookshelves would be a cheaper alternative although you have to figure the cost of the stands too. You might be surprised that difference may not be too big sometimes. If you are leaning towards the Ascend Acoustics....here's a link that might help:

    http://www.audioreview.com/PRD_125308_1594crx.aspx

    You can also go to CheapHomeTheater.com which give objective quality reviews for budget setups. Axiom Audio's M3ti edged the CMB-170 in their speaker shootout and it's cheaper too by $84. What I'm curious about is Aperion Audio. They have offerings from 2.1 to 7.1, take your pick. But i'm intrigued by the technology that they use for their speakers called DiAural. The 522D came out after CheapHomeTheater did their speaker shootout so I'm not sure how it would perform against the others. Their smallest sub (8" Intimus S-8APR) costs only $399, it comes with a built in amp and it's made of real cherry wood unlike the Axioms. Free shipping and no tax plus you can test it for 30 days free!

    http://www.aperionaudio.com/new/new_index.asp
    http://www.audioreview.com/PRD_135039_1594crx.aspx

    You can take the route of the best bargain sub out there from HSU (VTF-2) or SVS (25-31CS) but they are a bit over your budget. At $300, I don't know of any subs there that has been recommended by some magazines.

    That HK-125 receiver seems like a good deal @ $289 from Amazon and they do have promos where they do not charge tax and shipping. That seems to be more in your budget rather than the Outlaw 1050.
     
  17. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    Mike,
    first off congragulations on getting into fp.
    i've had my (also budget) pj for almost 2 years now and there is no way i could ever go back. i wish i had room for a 90" screen (is that diagonal 4:3 or 16:9?).

    anyways, i was upgrading last year from a cheap HTIB and i had set a budget of $2000 for just the speakers.
    i spent several months looking, and drug as much stuff home as i could to audition in the room.
    long story short- i order 3 ascends to try them out, not expecting to like them enough to keep them ( but at least i would have more 'free' speakers for another month :b ).
    they absolutely floored me.
    the qualities that stood out, which made them damn near perfect for an fp set-up were there excellan soundstage and imaging.
    the center speaker 'throws' sound onto the screen above in a way that borders on the supernatural.
    i watch a lot of older films with mono tracks and a decent center was critical to me. the 170 places sounds not only at screen height, but also seems to be able to place sounds where they are occuring within the screen (left side, right side, top, bottom, corner, etc).
    this is no small thing as i was trying out much more expensive speakers (a center alone that was $600) and, as good as they sounded tonally, they failed in this area.

    the 170s are flat out phenomenal value speakers.
    another plus was that they were considerably smaller than most of the stuff i was looking at, which worked out very well since i decieved myself with how big my room actually was. i needed to retain as mch free space as possible.

    since i only ordered 3 speakers to try them (all 170s across the front), the guys over there 'locked' me into the package price when i was ready to order the rears and sub. i got 200s for the rears. they work fine in that capacity and thankfully were even smaller than the 170s ( i too had really limited space in back).

    when they are on sale, which they seem to be pretty frequently, you can pick up the 170s for $150 each.
    i'd get the front three- i'm a firm believer in a dedicated center channel- and talk to them and tell them what your plans are.
    get the best reciever you can and enjoy the hell out of them.

    and yes, they are very 'musical' speakers.
    what i take this to mean are the qualities pertaining to soundstage and imaging.

    just remember, you don't have much, if anything, to lose by trying them, and even as good as i KNOW they are, theres always the possibility they woon't be a good match acoustically for your room.
    but do try them out if you can- and let us know what you think.
     
  18. JoeyTadeja

    JoeyTadeja Agent

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    I just found out something that might interest you. You may want to go the route of building your speaker system the modular way. These speakers from Athena allows you to create your system gradually until you can pony up the money to add more i.e. rears, center, subs. The S1/P1, an integration of speaker and sub, allows you to use them as fronts, then later on move them to the rears and purchase different configurations of S2, S3, P2, P3, depending on your requirements. You can keep adding and upgrading as your needs increase (say you want to go to a 7.1 setup). The starter S1/P1 speaker/sub combination would only cost you $825 retail. For more info check out their cool website (linked below) which has a 'createyoursound' program that allows you to make your own configurations for speaker setup. They got very good reviews from SoundStage and Audio Revolution to name a few.

    http://www.athenaspeakers.com/0_main/0_main.html
    http://www.soundstage.com/revequip/athena_s2p2.htm
    http://www.audiorevolution.com/equip/athena/index.html

    Now that you have enough choices...you have to do your part and audition them for us. Keep us posted of your progress.
     
  19. JoeyTadeja

    JoeyTadeja Agent

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  20. HienD

    HienD Stunt Coordinator

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    For people thinking of getting a HTIB package for music, don't. I've listened to a dozen of them and none sounded good for music. I'm talking about the 5 speaker and reciever packages for $1000cnd or less. From companies like, sony, jvc, panasonc...etc. All the nation brands.
     

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